Out in the Dark (2012)

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As The Bubble and The Invisible Men did before it, Out in the Dark considers the situation homosexual Palestinians find themselves constrained by, albeit with more mainstream media attention. This film, which was widely spoken about and generally well praised, centres around the story of Nimr and Roy. This feature film does indeed have many good points and I did, on the whole, enjoy it, but it does lack a certain something and can, perhaps, be accused of bias when the viewer bears in mind that its budget came from the Israel Film Fund. While this can be seen in places, it is unfair to completely suggest the film is biased. Israel is not shown in an explicitly ‘good’ light – turning away asylum seekers, dubious security forces and homophobia, are just a few negative points that come to mind. This does make the film more balanced than it could have turned out to be, but the film does still have, on the whole, a more biased view of the Palestinian Territories and plays to stereotypes.

It is difficult to tell what are stereotypes and what behaviours are based on elements of truth. It would seem that being homosexual is something less accepted in the largely Muslim Palestinian Territories, which is a trend we see across the rest of the Middle East. Considering that we see a negative reaction from Roy’s Israeli parents regarding this sexuality, the more extreme reaction from Nimr’s Palestinian family fits this trend. Here I would say the film isn’t biased and, in fact, highlights that homophobia, in varying degrees, is still a problem in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

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As mentioned above we do see negative aspects of Israeli society throughout too, which points in the general direction of a largely unbiased film. However, there are certainly points in the film when the desperate need for a bias clearly couldn’t be suppressed any longer. There are certainly points in the film when Roy treats Nimr to his own special brand of colonial snobbery. Roy can be seen to label Nimr’s family as terrorists from the second he sees the report from the Israeli news channel, to name just one example. There definitely seems to be the suggestion that Roy and his family are more developed socially than Nimr’s family, which opens up a whole separate debate – mainly, is it actually vicariously Roy’s family’s fault as Israel cuts off the Palestinian Territories from the luxuries of a rich and developed state.

Moving away from any political or social bias in the director’s or writer’s stance, and looking at the relationship between Roy and Nimr, we see yet another great portrayal of a homosexual couple on screen. The film is generally quite praiseworthy in this respect and I, for one, appreciated that Roy and Nimr didn’t sleep together the night they met and the fact that they weren’t portrayed as two men who were emotionally or psychologically damaged by their sexuality.

As the film progresses the two men realise that they can’t be together in Israel, not matter how many strings Roy tries to pull. With a solution in sight, the film closes with a close race to escape. One bugbear for me was that we will never find out if either of them made their separate ways successfully, to actually facilitate their new life abroad, but in reality, if it had ended in this ‘happily ever after’ fashion then I probably would have complained about that too.

HaBuah (The Bubble) – 2006

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Recently I have been really into Eytan Fox’s films, having watched Yossi & Jagger and reading about Yossi, his most recent film. This is when I came across The Bubble. As I have mentioned before I am huge fan of world cinema and I have a special place in my heart for films set in Israel or other Middle Eastern countries (including Waltz with Bashir (Israel) and Persepolis (Iran) and Eyes Wide Open (Israel)). Apart from the fact that these are all wonderful films, I also have a desire to travel to Israel, so this probably plays a part too. The Bubble is a refreshing film based in modern Tel Aviv and follows a group of liberal and hedonistic friends as they fight the system and open people’s eyes to the wrongs in society. Furthermore it is also a film about the tensions between Israel and Palestine with Noam being Israeli and his love interest, Ashraf, being Palestinian. Alongside this political tension we see a tension between cultures and religions. Ashraf’s family are muslim and disapprove of his homosexuality. As the above image shows, Ashraf always feels like an outsider compared to the liberated original friendship group. This film manages to tackle so many issues and it does so while being entertaining and emotional. My only issue with the film is what Noam is played by Ohad Knoller, who also plays Yossi in Yossi & Jagger. This, of course, isn’t really a fair criticism but it was something that confused me at first and made me wonder if there was a link between the films (there wasn’t). I won’t give away the ending but it is a powerful, memorable, surprising and poignant ending to the film which is still as relevant in todays Israel as it was 7 years ago.

(I do not own this image).